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The Painted Skin: Resurrection (2012), a Chinese romantic tragedy in an action fantasy setting

May 23, 2013

MY CALL:  A poetic, Chinese romantic fantasy tragedy with a dash of stylistic anime-esque action.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Maybe Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Shinobi (2005) or Legend of the Tsunami Warrior (2008).  All enjoy their own stylistic brand of action, love and fantasy.
The Fox Demon

This mythology-flavored story begins when a fox demon in the form of a beautiful woman (Xun Zhou; Cloud Atlas, Painted Skin) is freed from an icy prison by her bird demon sister (Mini Yang; Wu Dang).  They are called demons.  But they’re not your typical satanic, drooling, toothy-mawed monster demons.  They’re more like evil immortal beings.

The obscure story is driven by our two female leads.  The millennia-old Fox seeks the willing heart of a mortal man in order to become human and a warrior Princess (Wei Zhao; Red Cliff, Painted Skin) who hides a facial battle wound behind a mask seeks her one past love (Kun Chen; Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Painted Skin).  They meet and the Fox offers to help the princess–a favor which comes with a price.  The rest of the story is hard to explain without giving too much away…I won’t even try.  All I’ll say is that this is a romantic tragedy told in a fantasy setting in which all of the love-seeking protagonists are deeply and differently flawed.
The Fox and the princess making a deal that will change both of their lives.

This film makes every effort to please the eyes with long wispy dresses, impossibly long hair flowing in the wind, a scintillatingly colored wardrobe for the Fox and princess, and CGI-enhanced lighting.  The CGI elements are far behind their time, much as we would see in an early 90s movie (when it would have been first rate).  However, despite its obviousness, it is occasionally crisp and beautiful…other times just plain lame.
The Bird Demon enjoys the comic relief in the movie when she encounters a demon hunter.

The special effects techniques–among other components of the film–contribute to a strong sense of high fantasy with story-telling that feels like a story-driven videogame.  The presence of a dire bear, magical items, forbidden love and demons contribute to this feeling.

Though rare, the action is uniquely stylized.  While I am often disappointed by film editing which obscures the execution of techniques such that you don’t really “see” them being executed from start to finish in one clip, this film delivers action in a way that I can compare to none other; it’s impressive.  Some of these moves couldn’t possibly be executed by stunt men and sometimes CGI-ing the impossible just cheapens the experience.  Yet here I enjoyed it as I would a comic book, a glimpse at a time with a notion of anime-action transition.  It’s hard to explain.

The finale may be exciting for early teens, but I found it all quite silly.  This movie fell apart in the last 40 (of 130) minutes for me.  But I guess it was still worth watching this beautiful movie.

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